Alternative energy continues to power Robben Island

17th May 2018 By: Kim Cloete - Creamer Media Correspondent

A solar and lithium-ion microgrid installed on Robben Island last year has produced 650 000 kWh of solar energy so far.

Since adopting a green system, the island has produced an average of 3 250 kWh/d of power, says SOLA Future Energy CEO Dominic Wills.

The island used to rely on diesel-powered generators for its power needs, with the diesel transported to the island by ship, primarily to desalinate the island’s water supply.

“The cost of buying and transporting the diesel formed a substantial portion of Robben Island’s operating budget. Over and above the financial considerations, the noise and dust emanating from these generators was not creating a tourist-friendly environment.”

The Department of Tourism set aside funding for a microgrid project with a solar photovoltaic (PV) system. SOLA Future Energy was awarded the contract and installed a PV farm.

The microgrid is the largest combined solar and lithium-ion storage facility in South Africa.

The company is now moving into hard-to-reach areas and towns, such as Clanwilliam, where it is helping to power the Cedar Mill shopping centre.

The developers had applied to Eskom for a 500 kVA connection to power the centre, but the utility was only able to approve half of its demand requirements due to local constraints to the grid. SOLA Future Energy was able to integrate a microgrid into the shopping centre to make up for the shortfall and relieve the centre’s reliance on diesel generators.

Wills says areas like islands and rural districts tend to be partially connected to the national grid or suffer from unreliable electricity supply.

“Like Robben Island, these zones are poised to benefit from going totally off-grid.”